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Demand for key worker places outstripping capacity in many Norfolk schools

06 January 2021

Schools across Norfolk are facing increased pressure for places during the current lockdown, with many families requesting key worker places.

Norfolk County Council is working with education leaders and other local authorities in the region to develop a prioritisation criteria – so that children and families with the greatest need are able to access learning in school.

It is likely that in some schools this will mean both parents are expected to be key workers, with priority given to those whose parents work in emergency life-saving services.

Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We completely understand how difficult it is for families who are juggling work, childcare and home learning but we would encourage people to keep their children at home if they possibly can.

“Schools are facing huge pressure for places and have limited staff to work in school, due to illness and self-isolation. The restrictions on how classes can be set up are also much stricter with this lockdown.

“Although the national criteria states that only one parent needs to be a keyworker to be eligible for a place, in many schools that would mean nearly every child could still attend and schools simply cannot manage that at this time.

“We would ask parents, carers and businesses to do all they can to support schools and the lockdown – it’s vital that staff in the NHS can access places for their children in the current situation and they will have to be given priority.

“We are hugely grateful to those working in schools, academies and the early years who are providing vital support and education to the children of those responding to this pandemic.”

The pressure on places is due to a range of factors, some of which existed in the first lockdown in March, and some of which are unique to this lockdown.

For example, there are fewer staff available to work this time, due to staff sickness and isolation. The bubble system for those in school is stricter and the education unions have advocated that staff should work with smaller numbers of children to minimise the risk to their health.

Which parents receive places for their children will vary from school to school, as it will be based on demand and the number of children who are vulnerable who have already been provided with a place.

Some schools will need to prioritise the following groups:

  • Both parents need to be critical workers
  • NHS workers involved in COVID-19 health response, including vaccinations
  • Police and emergency services; social care staff, and education staff providing for vulnerable groups and critical worker children

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